Longtime investor Jamal Daniel is the chairman of the Levant Foundation in Houston, Texas, an organization that promotes understanding of the Middle East’s complex history as sacred ground for three religions. As part of this work, Jamal Daniel uses foundation funds to support much-needed improvements to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Constructed in the fourth century by the Roman emperor Constantine, the church is said to lie over a cave where Jesus was born. In addition to damage caused by earthquakes, eight hundred years of soot and grime have obscured the colorful mosaics depicting Christ and historic Christian figures.
The art, detailed in gold leaf, represents some of the finest work of the 12th century. Scenes such as Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on a donkey and St. Thomas’ discovery of the post-Resurrection wounds of Christ are now visible to all.
Tourist visits, especially over Christmas, form an essential part of Bethlehem’s economy. Although there has been some fluctuation in recent years, 1.2 million visitors were expected in 2018. The site is jointly administered by the Armenian, Greek Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches.
Renovation began in 2013 and is expected to be completed in August 2019.
Based in Texas, Jamal Daniel heads Crest Investment Company and also leads the Levant Foundation, which focuses on religious and cultural intersections across the Middle East. Through his publication Al-Monitor, Jamal Daniel explores news from that region in a way that is free of national, cultural, and religious bias.
A recent Al-Monitor feature brought focus to Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, who grew up as a Yazidi in mountainous northern Iraq near the Syrian border. When Islamic State jihadists took over large areas of the two countries, it had tragic consequences in her village, with men killed, children taken captive for training as fighters, and women conscripted into sexual slavery and forced labor.
The Kurdish-speaking woman was beaten and taken to Mosul, where she was forcibly converted to Islam and married to a jihadist. She was able to effect an escape, after which Murad discovered her mother and six brothers had lost their lives.
Now living in Germany, Nadia Murad has become a public face for the Yazidi cause and the need for women to have fundamental security and human rights enshrined. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018, along with a Congolese physician, in recognition of “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.”